What an amazing couple of months it’s been with lots of fantastic walks and some decent run training as I prepare for Rome marathon. Thank you to everyone in the British and international community that has joined me out walking – I’ve enjoyed every minute and I hope you have too! Here’s a run down of our adventures in 2017 so far…
Monte Virgo & Casertavecchia
This year we’ve had a proper winter in Campania – I’ve been here nearly 3 years and have never known such a long spell of icy temperatures, rain and ‘oh my goodness’, even snow! Clearly I am becoming Southern Italian and even softer than I already was as I actually took a video when snow fell a few weeks ago (returning to the UK is going to be a shock in August!). But the dusting on the surrounding peaks made the countryside look very pretty and we really appreciated this on the walk to Monte Virgo and Casertavecchia (11th Jan).
We parked in Sommana in a grey, unassuming village square; put on all our layers and set off, heads down and bodies hunched from the bitterly cold wind. It was nice to see some familiar faces among the group and catch up on news from the holidays. This walk begins on a grassy farm track with neat fields on either side, now sewn with winter crops, and huge old beech trees providing a carpet of ochre leaves. It slowly becomes rockier and turns upwards through a muddy thicket before opening out on the slopes of Monte Virgo. After a quick coffee in the company of a herd of cows, we began our ascent up a steep grassy slope covered in limestone boulders. We stopped often to catch our breath and look back to see the view of Monte Taburno and the Matese mountains – all covered in snow and very picturesque. At the top we had a view of next door Castel Marrone, perched on the top of a conical hill and the castle at Limatola a few miles beyond. The descent is all about the view of Casertavecchia with ancient towers that dominate the skyline. At the village we visited the wonderful Marchesina cake shop and strolled through the ancient streets before a quick lunch on a ballustrade overlooking Caserta and the plains. It was such a fun day with a great sense of camaraderie; cares were forgotten for a few hours in the fresh air, legs stretched and shoulders relaxed and we walked back to the car with big smiles! Thank you to everyone who came along.
Woodcutter’s Hut – Canadian Health & Wellbeing Week
Later in January, I led a walk for the Canadian community’s Health and Wellbeing week. I opted to go to our local trail, the Woodcutter’s Hut, and it did not disappoint. We had picture-perfect blue skies and warm sunshine and after all the rain the air was crystal clear and we could see for miles. We talked about the local nature reserves, traced the hills by name and pointed out other walks. And at lunch time, we had our first glimpse of Spring when I spotted a new crocus on the terraces at the hut. My grandmother was Canadian so I have plenty of family there and it was good getting to know some locals (I am totally clear now that Canadians prefer wine/prosecco at every opportunity versus water, no matter how far they are walking! ;). Kudos to the whole group for negotiating a tricky steep section with aplomb too. A lovely afternoon – thank you all for coming and thank you to the Canadian welfare office for inviting me to run the walk.
Unfortunately, due to the weather the walk to Monte Camino (18th Jan) had to be cancelled due to icy roads and thick snow on the summit. I quickly changed plans to go to our local crater, Carney Park, and a few brave souls met up to hike in the showers. Luckily it wasn’t long before the rain cleared and there were good views South to Vesuvius (covered in snow!), Capri in the bay plus Lago d’Averno and Capo di Miseno on the other side. Keep the flapjacks coming ladies – much appreciated!!
At the end of January, I took a group up to Monte Tifata near Caserta. Although you start on a nondescript track, you’re soon out on open moorland, eventually following a rocky ridge that leads to the summit. From here you have glorious circular views of the region, to the snow-capped Matese mountains and even down to amphitheatre at Capua. It was a windy day but the trail was just on the lee side of the hill which sheltered us, especially during lunch on the top where it was positively balmy. It’s a really interesting walk with little pockets of woodland in between the more exposed and challenging sections and lots of interesting features to spot in the landscape including an oxbow lake in the Volturno river. It was great to meet some new international faces on this walk – thank you all for coming and to Ceri who kept us laughing the whole way!
Vesuvius – La Valle dell’Inferno
Monte Camino is definitely set to thwart us and once again, conditions were not good enough to go at the start of February. Instead, I took some friends trail hunting and we explored the No 1 yellow path, ‘La Valle dell’Inferno’ on Vesuvius. The walk starts on a soft black track made of ash, which leads you slowly up through the woods, getting steeper and rougher until you reach the crater rim (Monte Somma). Here you can go north along the ridge to one of the peaks, Cognoli (1112m), where we stopped for a bite of lunch. We peered down into the Vall dell Inferno (Hell Valley), a deep sandy clearing in the crater and up to the vast cone, still covered in snow. Having not had a chance to do much research, it was exciting to come across the Spacca della Lava at the end of an airy scramble off the ridge. Here, the lava has cooled in extraordinary folds and there’s a cave you can squeeze into to get right inside the flow. Time, as ever, was tight and we made a swift descent via a lush grove with branches that curved over our heads and on through pine woods blackened by wildfires, to complete a 9km circuit.
Just recently I’ve taken a little break from leading walks as I’ve had some writing to do (a very exciting opportunity with a British guidebook website) and also wanted to map out a few new trails for you all. These include 3 walks on Vesuvius, a crater walk at another volcanic complex, Roccamonfina, which is an hour north of Naples, plus my new favourite trail in Campania, Monte Molare (1441m) on the Sorrentine peninsula. I am writing these up and hope to have them up on the site soon.
As always, I’m really happy to help with queries, maps or info – do get in touch!